Kings and Sovereigns at Saint-Germain-en-Laye
Louis VI le Gros
Towards 1122, the king had a fortress built on the wooded plateau “Laye” which overlooked a loop of the Seine.
The castle’s chapel was built in 1238 at the request of Saint Louis (Louis IX) and predates the Sainte-
Chapelle in Paris by a few years.
The castle’s dungeon is the only feature that remains after the 14th century when the fortress burned during the 100 years war.
The Château-Vieux (old castle) was built in the 16thcentury at the request of Pierre Chambiges who used the existing foundations, including the chapel. Several salamanders (the king’s emblem) throughout the Chateau evoke his presence. His “Renaissance style” can be easily distinguished in the courtyard.
Henri II – Henri IV
“Le Château-Neuf” and its gardens were begun by Henri II at the end of what is now the Terrace. The project was completed by Henri IV. The Henri IV Pavilion is all that remains of the “Château-Neuf”, which is now a hotel and restaurant.
The king commissioned the paintings which decorate the castle’s chapel. One can view works of Poussin, Le Brun, Simon Vouet, and Stella. After 23 years of marriage he fathered a son who became Louis XIV.
Born and christened at the “Château-Neuf” on September 5th, 1638, Louis XIV made the Old Castle his
main residence from 1666 to 1681. In 1682, Jules Hardouin Mansart was put in charge of adding 5 corner pavilions to allow for more visitors.
The Church, commissioned by Louis XIV in 1683, was built with its back to the castle. In 1765, Louis XV had the church “reoriented” by Potain (churches at that time faced east); it was not completed until 1827.
The Chateau was converted into a school for the National Guard from 1809 to 1812, during Napoleon’s reign.
He created the “Gardes du Corps”, (assuring the safety of the royal family), which often trained at the Royal Riding School, in an equestrian training centre built in 1816, with an impressive timber roof frame resembling the inverted hull of a ship. This “Manège Royal” is used today for special events.
In 1862, he created the museum of Celtic and Gallo-Roman Antiquities in the Château-Vieux restored by the architect Eugène Millet in 1867: today housing the National Museum of Antiquities.